The Drug Smuggling Past of a Jeans King

By Anna David 06/03/12

Once busted for money laundering, today Michael Glasser is the creator of multiple uber successful jeans lines. Along the way, he also amassed nearly 30 years of sobriety.

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Glasser today Photo via

As the creator of the lines Seven, Citizens for Humanity, and Rich and Skinny jeans, Michael Glasser not only almost single handedly launched the designer denim jean craze of the aughts but has also had his denim worn by Reese, Beyonce, Britney, Halle, Paris, Cameron and dozens of other perfectly assed creatures also identifiable by first name only. And he cuts an imposing figure behind his enormous desk on the second floor of the Rich and Skinny headquarters. Still, you wouldn’t take the salt-and-pepper haired businessman for a former drug dealer or money launderer; he looks far more like a proud papa you might see at, say, his son’s sporting events. Well, it turns out he’s that, too: his son Derek Glasser is a point guard for the Arizona Sun Devils. Here, he talks to The Fix about selling cocaine, overdosing on Quaaludes and avoiding jail time.

When did you first start drinking?

I was 13 years old, at a family affair, and I remember my mother getting totally shitfaced and getting undressed. To a 13-year-old who looked up to his mom, it was mortifying. My brother, who was seven years older than me, was drinking, too. When they got up to dance, I just went over and drank their drinks. I just wanted to experience it. I threw up and I passed out. The last time I had a drink, that’s exactly what I did, also.

Did you drink a lot after that?

Not really. I was always a goody two-shoes, an athlete; I was always taking care of my body. I didn’t smoke when everyone smoked, I didn’t smoke weed when all my friends were smoking weed. I was clean, clean, clean. Except when I’d go out on a date. On a date, once I had my car, I’d always have a bottle of liquor in the back. Today, I realize: who else puts bottles of liquor in their car at 18 but an alcoholic? I’d always take a swig before I went to the door. I always thought I was this hip, cool guy—this guy who got all the girls—but really I was scared shitless of girls. That was my way of fortifying myself for the date. 

I was doing cocaine basically 24/7. I had a cook: literally all he did was cook cocaine. I went nuts. I would lose money; I’d lose kilos of coke. It was insane. 

When did you get into the fashion business?

I didn’t go to college—my parents wouldn’t send me to college—so I started working at a very young age, and I was in the clothing industry and became pretty successful designing clothes by the time I was 21. My life was like a fairy tale: I was running around with models and I was this cool designer. I had no formal training and I thought everything was phenomenal. 

I get the funny feeling that didn’t last.

It didn’t. I moved out to LA and that’s when I started to do drugs. I was basically doing pills: black beauties. I loved speed. I was introduced to coke, and then I was off and running, doing coke and Quaaludes. For a while, everything worked. Until it stopped working.

What happened?

Well, I was kind of fucked up in business, and someone called me asking if I could find a bank to loan money in California. I said, “What are you talking about?” And the person said, “We have these people coming out, and you’ll get one percent of all the money they put in the bank.” They were talking about 10 million a month, 20 million a month. I said, “This is the coolest thing in the world, this is easy,” right? So I cold-called some banks, like an idiot. I said, “Listen, I have a friend in Florida who wants to come out to California and put money in the bank, but they don’t want you to report it and they’ll give you X amount of dollars if you don’t report it.” So obviously, most banks said no. But this one bank in Manhattan Beach said yes. And unbeknownst to me, that bank went right to the government. So right from the beginning, the government knew about what was going on.

How did it go from that to drug dealing?

Well, I was a drug addict, and it wasn’t long after they told me about the money that they asked me if I could sell coke. I never was a dealer—I was a buyer. But I said, “Gee, I don’t really know, I never did that, but yeah, give me a kilo of coke.” It took me three hours, two phone calls, and the kilo of coke was gone. I called and told them I sold it. Two days later, someone showed up with five kilos of coke. Suddenly I was a major drug guy in this town. I was doing cocaine basically 24/7. I had a cook: literally all he did was cook cocaine. I went nuts. I would lose money; I’d lose kilos of coke. It was insane. After two months, the woman who initially got a hold of me came out to California and said, “Listen, we’re not going to do this anymore.” What she was really saying was, “You can’t do this anymore.” 

Because you were busted?

I was fired. But the bank guys set up a sting, and they got the DEA involved. I was already out of there, but my life from that point had gone downhill.

How?

I was living on my friend’s couch in North Hollywood. I weighed 240 pounds because I’d stopped coke and was just drinking, and I wanted to kill myself, basically.

Did you try?

My friend had a gun collection, and I told him, “One day, you’re going to come home and find me dead.” He said, “I’m going to call you twice a day, and if you don’t pick up the phone, I’m calling 911, so you’d better pick up the phone.” One day, he brought home bootleg Quaaludes. And the next day, I took one, blacked out, and then took them all. So he called and I didn’t answer the phone. He got in the car and started to come home. On the way he called 911, and when they came, I was just about dead. In the ambulance, I died and they shocked me back to life. I had a week of intensive care. The first thought that came to my head when I woke up was, “There’s something wrong with you,” and that was the first time in my life that I pointed the problem back at me. 

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